As Robert Reichek, president of Reicorp Remodeling, a sunroom company in Atascadero, Calif., will tell you: “At any show, there are 100 people doing the same thing, so you have to stand out.” The best technique for doing that is to throw away your chairs and replace them with metaphorical bells and whistles.

MADE YOU LOOK

Get people's attention by creating activity in your booth. “Think of the person who stands on the street corner with a sign,” Reichek says. “That doesn't really grab your attention, but when the sign is moved back and forth, it gets your attention. It's similar at shows. People are on overload, so you have to be different.”

Reichek's idea of being different is having a huge corporate logo surrounded by about 10 heat lamps. “The heat lamps come on and off constantly so there's visual action,” he says, “and you can literally feel the heat coming off them as you walk by.”

Another man of action is Bill Frazier, president of Austin Gutterman, in Austin, Texas. “We sell gutter protection products, so we have a lot of products with water,” he says. “We have the products working with water running on them, and we set them up in a way that customers can visualize them on their property. It's a magnet for customers to see products actually working, and they like to stick their fingers in the water.”

NO SITTING

“Don't have any chairs in your booth, and don't sit behind a table,” advises Michael Morgan, master marketer and president of Morgan Success Group, in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Have a variety of sales rep teams that can swap off so that one's walking the floor, one's at the booth, and one's meeting with customers. That way, they're constantly doing something different, and they don't get tired.”

Do contests and giveaways work? That depends on how you structure them. “Don't give away one large prize,” Morgan advises. “Rather than spend $1,000 on one prize, give away 10 prizes of $100 each. And make the prizes ones that people will use.”

The smartest giveaway that Morgan has seen involved a rep who brought DVD players with personal headsets — which blocked out the cacophony of the show — to stream his presentation at the booth. At the end of the show, those DVD players became his giveaways. The rep was able to write off the DVD players as a marketing expense, provide prizes that were valuable to attendees, and avoid the hassle of hauling his equipment home. —Gabriella Filisko is a freelance writer based in Chicago.